By Peter Jon Lindberg
April 06, 2014

Don’t think of it as just a stopover; Johannesburg deserves serious exploration of its own.

Because downtown is back. For ages, visitors have sought refuge in the gated suburbs north of town, but inner-city crime rates are dropping and young urbanites are moving in. Walk down lively Juta Street in gritty-but-safe Braamfontein, where Dokter & Misses sells hand-cast ceramics and Afro-Deco furniture, then join the crowd for retro cocktails at the 108-year-old Kitchener’s Carvery Bar (27-11/403-0166; $).

Because few cities have better street fashion. Joburg is full of irrepressibly natty locals wearing sharply tailored jackets, riotously colored tees, and patterned eyewear. In Maboneng, a warehouse district turned artists’ hub, the sidewalks are like runways, as are the quirky galleries and rooftop cafés of Arts on Main.

Because the culture scene has a fitting new home. Make that two new homes: In 2012 the Wits Art Museum unveiled its genre-jumping collection of traditional and contemporary African art. And this past fall, the continent’s first design museum—the Museum of African Design—opened in Maboneng.

Because you can have an elegant mansion all to yourself. The sleepy burbs are still good for sleeping. In quiet Hyde Park, the rambling villa at 33 Melville Road ($$$) has three roomy suites and a garden where a jacaranda tree bursts into bright purple in spring.

$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000

$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150